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Why we tore apart our agency and started again

People involved.

Several years ago we started to identify that many new clients were coming to us ‘burned’ by the experience of making video - having spent lots of money for lacklustre returns. Even relative novices were nervous and risk averse with video accounting for a large part of their marketing budget.

We’d come to the end of projects ourselves with the nagging feeling that the work we had done just wasn’t as good as we wanted it to be – as it could be - and like our clients we were frustrated by the process. It so often felt like a fight with no winner. In a world where consumers can’t get enough of video content, we believe brands don’t get enough from it. Our agency has been re-shaped, re-branded and re-structured around the single thought– that the way agencies and brands work to create video content is dysfunctional and fundamentally broken.

This statement must be considered in the context of the medium we work in – film has the power to literally change hearts and minds  -has taken down politicians, governments and regimes, tackles prejudice - tearing down division and mending misunderstandings between adversaries and communities.In this context when you compare the performance of video to other forms of marketing - direct mail, outdoor press, magazine advertising etc. It’s akin to comparing a kitten to a greyhound. And yet people benchmark it in similar ways.

Video, like marketing, is a specialism that people think they have by virtue of being a consumer. Everybody in a business has an opinion on their company’s marketing – but this isn’t the same for the purchasing system or manufacturing process. And it invariably leads to ‘design by committee’ which sucks the soul out of, and is totally counter-intuitive to how creative thinking and ideas come about. Unless of course you wantFrankenstein’s monster! Moreover many senior executives (incl. marketers)struggle to put their feet in the shoes of their consumers so derail the process by bringing their own bias and taste to the table. Often last minute…

So, during the downtime of filming during Covid I took sometime to ponder some of this stuff whilst in parallel considering how Aspect could come out the other side smarter/stronger as a business. Surprisingly it was hard to find a evidence-based framework for video success. Don’t get me wrong -there are gazillions of books/articles - just no simple comprehensive A to Z checklist- follow this and you will win every time! So that’s what I set about to try and create, reviewing all my client experiences both client and, more recently, agency side.

I initially developed a list of 7 (our Creative Director Tom helped me hone it to 5) barriers and corresponding ingredients for making great video content (you can now see these front and centre on our home page). None of them are rocket science but they often get lost along the way. Without them video falls flat, and it’s imperative to resolve ALL not just a few of them. Then the challenge was how to help clients plan properly to avoid the pitfalls that lead to them.

It is my belief that the pitch process typical in this industry undermines the ability for a client/prospect and agency to properly come to know each other and build an equitable relationship. Partners not suppliers – a status essential for constructive feedback and challenge. Pitch briefs often fail to identify meaningful insights that are the spark(s) for creative ideas and the process requires us to present creative, at the point where we know the client the least, and our recommendations are least effective.

We wanted to offer an alternative that allows us to spend time with various stakeholders within our clients, not just their marketing team, to really understand their business challenges, barriers and imperatives.We hope to define what success looks like – measuring video in terms of outcomes not outputs. Most importantly the process must examine the customer journey- planning content around the questions and information they need to progress through it, and ultimately building brand salience at the point of sale.

At the end of it, clients must walk away with something easily buyable - clearly stated deliverables - sufficiently action oriented that you could start out the day after the report is delivered, with a plan.

That thinking led to our first workshop of Brand StoryGen. Every client who has attended this workshop has been ‘blown away’ experiencing ‘game changing’ results and unparalleled marketing performance uplift. See here for the case studies.

ALL, without exception have come out of the process changed- often moving significantly forwards from the brief/requirements they originally thought they had.

Different workshops for different needs

Since those early days, we have created a line up of workshops – each focusing on a particular requirement:

Our brains instinctively understand stories – we are hardwired for them, so teasing our your brand’s story, putting it at the heart of your communication is done via a narrative process. By plotting a brand’s story alongside their customer journey we can figure out a. the brand’s sweet-spot - what we call the ‘white space’ - where it can uniquely add value and should focus its content and b. help the brand take the role of the guide and not the hero. Anticipating and answering customers ‘questions’ at each stage of the customer journey. Clients get a long-term video strategy that defines what to create, when to produce it, and how to get it seen.

For those with an immediate campaign requirement, this workshop uses the spine of the 3F’s – fame, feeling and fluency to create content that is eye catching, engaging and memorable. The aim? To put the brand front of mind (salient) at the point of purchase. It lives up to our promise of tailored content - ensuring all campaign content is specifically designed for platform and customer journey messaging.

Our most creatively-oriented workshop, using proven exercises and techniques to spark imaginations and ideate. Very often clients who engage with agencies find themselves the wrong side of a closed door when it comes to the creative process. We don’t believe that creativity is limited to creatives. There are many clients who have internal creative teams or individuals who want to be more immersed in the process - so that’s what creative lab does. We go on a creative ideation journey together with our clients to develop award winning campaign ideas that stay true to all our pillars.

I started by saying that we tore apart our business but really, we just created a ground zero that allowed us to rethink how we should and wanted to be working with our clients. If any part of what I’ve outlined strikes a chord or resonates then please get in touch and we can have a proper conversation.


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